Sunlight Foundation Muddles Facts On “News Corp.” Donations To Obama

How is it possible to claim, as a Sunlight Foundation report does, that the “biggest all-time recipient of contributions from News Corp is President Obama”? By treating the contributions of individual employees the same as corporate contributions, even though they're not.

The Sunlight Foundation forwards that confusion. After making the claim about Obama being “the biggest all-time recipient of contributions,” it adds: “It should be noted that the totals for News Corp's contributions also include money from employees of the organization and their family members.” But the private contributions employees make cannot be said to speak for the corporation they work for, and lumping them all together leads to false conclusions -- among them, that News Corp. made corporate contributions to Obama.

If it seems like Obama got a lot of money from News Corp. employees, that's because he got a lot of money from a lot of people in 2008.

The Sunlight report doesn't explain that there was a massive increase in fundraising during the 2008 campaign cycle. For instance, the Federal Election Commission noted in a June 8, 2009, press release that "[f]inancial activity of 2008 presidential candidates and national party convention committees increased 80% in receipts over the 2004 presidential election."

Misleading claims, however, have a way of making it into the media, and that's what has happened with Sunlight's claims. A blog post at The Hill picking up Sunlight's research carries the headline “Report: Obama top recipient of News Corp. donations.” Like Sunlight, The Hill lumped together corporate and individual contributions.

Such misportrayals of political contributions are all too common. Last year, during the BP oil spill, some in the media asserted that Obama was “the single largest recipient of BP's cash” during the 2008 presidential campaign, omitting that the money came from individual employees, not the corporation itself.